Utah St.-Boise St. Preview
While Boise State controls its own destiny as it tries to reach the Mountain West championship game, surging Utah State might already know its fate by kickoff.
With the Mountain Division title at stake, the high-scoring No. 25 Broncos seek their 13th consecutive home victory and 12th straight win overall over the stingy Aggies on Saturday night.
Boise State moved into the Top 25 for the first time following a 63-14 victory at Wyoming last Saturday. The Broncos have been ranked for at least one week in each of the last 13 seasons.
Now they have an opportunity to host the conference championship game by pushing their winning streak to seven, which would be quite an advantage since they've won 83 of their last 85 on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium.
Boise State (9-2, 6-1) is tied with Colorado State and Utah State (9-3, 6-1) atop the division, though it beat the Rams 37-24 at home Sept. 6.
"The focus is on going 1-0 (this week) and I'm happy for our program, but we have to go out there and take care of business," coach Bryan Harsin said.
The Broncos have been sharp offensively, ranking ninth nationally with 40.0 points per game after reaching 60 for the second time in their last three. They are eighth in the country with 513.4 yards per game.
Grant Hedrick went 13 of 19 for 246 yards and three touchdowns last Saturday, while Jay Ajayi rushed for 110 yards and two scores on 16 carries and added two catches for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Ajayi, seeking his seventh straight 100-yard rushing effort, is tied for fourth in the FBS with 19 touchdowns and is 12th with 126.4 rushing yards per game. He had 109 and a score in a 34-23 win at Utah State on Oct. 12, 2013.
The Broncos get what could be their toughest test in the Aggies, who are coming off last Friday's 41-7 home win over San Jose State. Utah State allows league lows of 18.3 points and 116.5 rushing yards per game, and it limited the Spartans to a season-low 61 passing yards - well below their 264.1 average.
Linebacker Zach Vigil is a Mountain West defensive player of the year candidate, while safety Frankie Sutera has a conference-leading seven interceptions. The Aggies have forced a league-high 28 turnovers.
"You've got the No. 1 scoring defense and the No. 1 scoring offense in the Mountain West, so something's got to give," Aggies coach Matt Wells said. "(Boise State has) the best back in the league and we've got the best linebacker."
Utah State needs a win and a Colorado State loss at Air Force on Friday to play for the title for a second straight year. The Aggies fell 24-17 to Fresno State in the inaugural league championship game.
"It all boils down to one game and quite honestly, that's the next game for us, ever since the loss at Colorado State," Wells said. "When you take yourself out of the driver's seat, you have to live with the consequences."
The Aggies have won five in a row despite losing quarterbacks Chuckie Keeton, Darell Garretson and Craig Harrison to injury.
Kent Myers has completed 73.1 percent of his passes for 636 yards with five touchdowns and one interception since taking over five games ago. The freshman rushed for 92 yards and three scores while throwing for another last Friday.
Utah State's JoJo Natson has run for 293 yards and three touchdowns on just 15 carries over the past three games. The Aggies have rushed for an average of 256.5 yards in their last four.
Senior offensive tackle Kevin Whimpey is likely to be a game-time decision due to an undisclosed injury.
The Broncos have tightened up their run defense in their last two games, allowing a total of 249 yards on the ground after surrendering 505 in a 60-49 win at New Mexico on Nov. 8.
Boise State is also giving up only 221.3 passing yards per game. Darian Thompson has six interceptions while Donte Deayon has recorded four.
The Broncos have won the past 11 meetings with Utah State by an average of 27.3 points. They've taken the last six home matchups by 29.5 per game.